“The critical moment of the robbery makes her see the mess around and inside her”
– The Polish director discusses her film about a 60-year-old woman who breaks all the rules
A 60-year-old mother goes out to buy fish food and finds herself robbing a bank with a kitchen knife in Woman on the Roof [+see also:
interview: Anna Jadowska
film profile] by Anna Jadowska, based on a true story. The Polish director brought her film in competition at the 24th European Film Festival in Lecce, where we met her.
Cineuropa: What struck you the most about this true story?
Anna Jadowska: I read this article some years ago while I was in between two movies and looking for some kind of inspiration. In the beginning, I was curious about what was behind this robbery, because there was such a huge gap between the daily routine of this woman and her sudden decision to rob a bank. From the beginning I felt that it should be a story based on her, I didn’t want to tell a crime story, it’s rather a kind of character study. I wanted to understand what kind of person she was: a quite simple woman living in a small flat, but there’s something deeper, more complex in her.
An old lady goes out to buy fish food and finds herself robbing a bank with a kitchen knife: it sounds like the premise for a dark comedy. How did you manage to keep the balance between the seriousness of the subject and a possible humorous drift?
I just took few details from the real story, which was more brutal (after the robbery, the woman was beaten by her husband). But that woman actually decided to buy fish food just a few minutes before the robbery, and I found it really funny. It’s a mixture of moods and atmospheres: it’s my personal tone and I couldn’t tell the story in a different way. I’m interested in small details, I wanted to follow the character step by step in tiny little moments. Even the seemingly unimportant situations — when she’s alone in the kitchen, for example — for me are important because, even as a viewer, I need a space to be curious and not fully understand what is going on.
Your camera focuses on the face of the protagonist.
With my DoP Ita Zbroniec-Zajt and my actress Dorota Pomykala, we were looking for a proper way to tell this story and we found that the tension which is inside the character is really catchy and mysterious, that’s why we wanted to show that she’s almost completely invisible outside, and yet inside her there is a struggle. We wanted to discover bit by bit what was going on, so we decided to be so close to her, even when there are people around her. We thought the film should show a kind of awakening of the main character, that’s why we decided to have those kinds of colours and light. We took great inspiration from Japanese photographer Rinko Kawauchi.
The man showering in the garden seems to provoke in Mirka a sensual awakening, too…
People at Q&As often ask me if there was a sex scene that I cut out, but no, there’s just this brief look between them. Mirka feels that this guy seems to be very free and doesn’t care about people around him. On the other hand, her husband is full of fears and concerns, he stays aside. But there is not one person alone responsible for that situation, I think the family as a structure created that situation. To change our world, we first have to change ourselves. I wanted to show some kind of critical moment in the life of the character that turns out to be something good, but in a realistic way, not like in American movies where characters change in a minute. With older people it’s really a huge process, she takes a few steps forward then a few steps back. The critical moment of the robbery makes her see the mess around and inside her. It’s the beginning of a new chapter, my goal was that she believes that a change is possible.
Female characters over 60 are almost invisible in cinema.
They are mostly in comedies, because it’s easier to show them in a funny way. I wanted instead to show the whole picture of women in their sixties, and that’s why I also showed Mirka naked. She doesn’t feel a connection with her own body, and I wanted to show the way she really looks. For some people, this is too much, because they are used to seeing different bodies, but people look completely different at different ages. And I still believe that we have the responsibility, especially as female directors, to show this kind of character.
Are you already working on your next project?
Last week we were at the Thessaloniki Film Festival, in the coproduction market, with a project called Tethys Ocean, a period drama set before the Second World War and inspired by the life of my grandmother. The main character will be a 7-year-old girl working as a servant and who has a special ability: she can see ghosts – but it’s not a horror movie. We are at the beginning of the journey.
(Translated from Italian)